REVIVAL

Today I am beginning a series of posts relating to revival based on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ (Revive Our Hearts) and Tim Grissom’s (Life Action Ministries) 12-week study entitled, Seeking Him.  The authors write,

“Revival is the sovereign work of God.  He chooses when and to whom He sends it.  It is also true, however, that there are things we can do to prepare for revival in our lives. Being prepared for what God has determined to do is a pattern we see throughout Scripture. For example, on the eve of their passage into the Promised land, Joshua charged the children of Israel, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (Joshua 3:5). In the same way, we can prepare our hearts for spiritual renewal.”

On week one, day five of the study, we find a list of 16 words or short phrases with supporting scripture, all related to personal revival, therefore, I am blogging each day’s work for the next 16 days.  I actually began this project in late November, but sometimes it takes me quite a while to digest these scriptures and unpack these words, and some days I simply don’t get to the study, but I have a commitment to complete it, and am excited to see the work of God in my life as I do.  Already I have been blessed by this, and decided to blog my journey so that you may be blessed as well.

So, I pray this work blesses, encourages and strengthens you in some way.  In any case, dear brethren, I welcome your comments, exhortations and correction.  I read recently that in all we know, we are typically 50% wrong.  The problem is, we don’t know which 50% of what we know is wrong.  So I’m counting on your insight and wisdom to lead me and help me to know the right from the wrong, not for the sheer knowing of it, but for the living by it.
And if together we can learn to live righteous and blameless, spurring revival in the hearts of one another, then the LORD Himself is to be glorified and praised.  That is my hope and prayer.

John Piper once said this in relation to knowing and living in truth:

“Discernment is not created in God’s people by brokenness, humility, reverence, and repentance. It is created by biblical truth and the application of truth by the power of the Holy Spirit to our hearts and minds. When that happens, then the brokenness, humility, reverence, and repentance will have the strong fiber of the full counsel of God in them. They will be profoundly Christian and not merely religious and emotional and psychological.”

May we all live as those who are discerning in the Word and humbled by Truth so that we may always be ready for wonders revealed today and those to come. -Amen

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5k Inspiration

One of my goals before my next birthday is to run a 5k. Honestly, I don’t much like running, but I’ve always been intrigued by it and I do like how it makes me feel when I’m finished. So I’m torn every day between the going and the staying. There’s always plenty of work here for me to do and I can always use that hour to delete something from my task list (or add a couple more). But I have a goal, and October 16th’s 5k is quickly approaching.

On my ride to the gym today I was thinking of these numerous deadlines, trying to sort out which ones can slide for a couple of days while I accomplish the more pressing ones. It’s a constant juggling act. And as I was just considering taking the next exit to ditch the workout and head home to my computer, a bug flew in my car window and landed on my steering wheel. It took him a moment to get his footing, and just as I was about to shew him back from where he came, he was off and running the full circumference of the wheel like a true athlete! I laughed out loud, and half expected him to tuker out and fly away. Amazed, I watched him take another full run around my steering wheel and then another! He didn’t waver, and he didn’t let the cruise control button distract him, he just ran his little heart out. He finished his little 5k at the top of the steering wheel, turned toward me and flexed his wings. I respectfully congratulated him. He slowly walked half distance around the steering wheel again and landed at the bottom, as if to say, “I’m staying here  until you get to the gym. We’ll ride this out together.”

I parked the car and quickly got a snapshot of him before he flew away. It’s my inspiration for the day. Don’t you love his athletic colors? There’s untold beauty in that kind of resiliency.


Petunias

Returning from Russia brought many happy moments, and some sad ones, too. My poor garden wasn’t doing so well when I left, and the eleven days of neglect while I was gone produced weeds in abundance and dry, brittle twigs where flowers once were. I shook my head as I gazed on the dead petunias. As beautiful as petunias are, they aren’t as hearty as they look. Their deep jewel tones and delicate blossoms delight my eyes in the Spring, and I plant them in abundance. But they don’t stay that way, and I’m hopelessly deceived into thinking that they are stronger than they really are. These dear flowers need pruning, watering and weeding more than any flower in my garden. More than that, they need protection from the rabbits who live in the bushes and find their blossoms to be a delicious treat. I don’t always consider these things when I plant petunias. I am enchanted with their beauty alone and assume they will grow and remain alluring simply because that’s what I expect of them. I don’t consider all the work it will take to keep them beautiful and thriving.

And such is the way with people. God gives us a gentle lesson with the petunia. Are we too eager to fill our lives with the beauty of others yet so blind that we neglect the care and keeping of them? I think we certainly believe that people need right relationships with God, but we fail to realize that phileo love is just as important to God as agape love. God created us for one another for accountability, fellowship, companionship, intercession and love so that we can be in authentic, life-changing relationships with one another. He delightfully shines through us to affect each other in the most incredible and penetrating ways. And like the petunias in my garden, it requires a lot of work, but the returning beauty of the blossom resonates a life filled with love.

This is a great lesson for me as I strive to fulfill the role of friend and mentor in a way which pleases God most so that we can all grow to know and love Him more. By caring well for others I believe we can change the world, one petunia at a time.


Katie’s Request

We arrived at the correct location a few minutes early, and found our seats among people who were more our age. I don’t know why we do things like that, we just do. But a young girl with a delightful smile immediately greeted Melanie and me.

“Hi! I’m Katie!” she said, as she extended her hand. We introduced ourselves and felt a sense of warmth and welcoming.

The YWAM base was three years’ new in our area, and I had been anxious to visit ever since I heard of it. When there was an invitation for community night, I didn’t hesitate to reserve a spot. When Katie turned to the next newcomer, I turned to my right and introduced myself to the young girl sitting next to me.

“I’m Katie,” she said quietly.

“Oh, tell me,” I joked, “are all the YWAM girls here named Katie?” I laughed. “If they are, it will make meeting people a lot easier!”

Katie smiled humbly and said simply that there were only two. I could tell that it wasn’t a natural thing for her to begin talking to random strangers. She was quiet and shy, but very sweet. I asked where she was from and we chatted a bit about a location I was familiar with until my son came along and sat in between us. I introduced them and as they began talking, I turned my attention elsewhere. But I kept thinking about Katie.

We had wonderful praise and worship, led by Libby (who after the event immediately pegged me as my daughter’s mother). After praise time, we heard from a dynamic speaker who challenged us to be confident in our faith. It’s a good challenge, solid and foundational to the Christian faith. Quoting scripture after scripture with whimsical ease, we were freshly reminded that God’s mercy and grace makes us holy, not anything we do. It’s amazing how we always go back to the doing of our faith, while in the back of our minds we track brownie points as if we’re competing with the rest of Christianity for God’s favor. Will we ever learn?

The time ended with prayer and we filed into the main lobby for beverages and snacks. I visited for a bit with a couple of students at the DTS, and just as we were about to leave, I spotted Katie. I really wanted to say goodbye to her, so I walked across the lobby and told her it was good to meet her. I then asked how I could pray for her. She seemed surprised that anyone would even ask. She thought for a very long moment and looked up. “Please pray that I can trust God more,” she said.

Katie could have asked for a million things. As a YWAM DTSer she could have asked that God provide funding for her outreach or that He would multiply the time she needs to complete her homework. She could have stated that she wasn’t sleeping well, that she missed her family, or that she was having a personality struggle with one of her fellow roommates. And in all these possible requests she could have even said, “Pray that I trust God to …” but she didn’t. She purely and simply requested that she trust Him … more.

The drive home left me astounded. This was no small request. It’s the stuff that bears witness to a living and active spirit within this precious human soul. In his book, Trusting God, Jerry Bridges writes, “Trusting God is not a matter of my feelings, but of my will.” He later adds, “We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s love in happiness. We should instead look for them in His faithful and persistent work to conform us to Christ.” Katie was asking to be conformed to Christ. It was a bold and courageous prayer request, and one which I have no doubt our God will take delight in answering. I would like to see Katie again one day. I think she could teach me much about the humble Christian faith, girded by solid trust.

Father, I pray for Katie tonight. May you fill her with a peace which surpasses all understanding, a faith that is strong and unwavering, and trust that in all things you are in total control. May she become strong and courageous in your sight, a woman of honor, dignity and value. May the things that move you move her, and may she be intimately acquainted with your voice whether she’s on the summit or in the valley. I pray, Lord, that she can learn to trust you more. And may we all adopt this very prayer request as our own.


The Turkish Pastor

Istanbul, Turkey

I attended a leadership conference this week which focused primarily on the leadership principles of Christ.  It was both refreshing and challenging.  In the conference we had many nationals attend.  There were experts and field workers from Nepal, India, Africa the US and Turkey as well as many aspiring students.  The Turkish man I met is a pastor in Turkey and has had great influence in his nation among the protestant Christians.  In a nation of 72m people, there are only four to five thousand protestant Christians.  My friend has much work to do.

I mentioned to him that I was preparing my church to pray for Turkey this Sunday.  The day marks three years since three men were tortured for three hours and then murdered, or martyred, simply for their faith in Christ; one American, two Turks.  All three of those men were friends of this Turkish pastor I met, one was his best friend.  How penetrating.

Please consider engaging your church, Sunday school or prayer groups to pray for Turkey this Sunday.  You can download information and prayer points from the Pray For Turkey website.

Even if you get this information later, you can still pray.  The nation needs our prayers and our loving intercession.  And please pray for my friend, Ramazan as he continues to faithfully carry out the call to evangelize and offer the hope of the Gospel to a lost and oppressed nation.

Grace and peace be yours, my friends.


Immobile

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary describes the word dysfunction as abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group. The prefix, dys, means bad, abnormal or difficult. So we can say that dysfunction is the impaired functioning of something or someone. It can happen out of trauma or tragedy, but in a human it can also occur out of disobedience, oppression and depression as well as trauma and tragedy. The outward behavior becomes the dysfunction making one immobile in some areas either physically or mentally. It is the inability to grasp some realities of life. And very often, it becomes a safe and protected prison.

The Visit
God inoculated me to the horror of her standard of living, which has seen very little joy in quite a many years. It’s incredible how dysfunction can sometimes literally make one un-functional. We walked in to 2, 3 and 4 feet of trash strewn all over the house. Dirty dishes filled the kitchen which has long passed in seeing a home-cooked meal. A hall bath was so decrepit that an out-house would have been a kingly choice. Television and computers are their only source of entertainment. A 150lb dog can only lie on a tiny spot on the floor, embedded in her prison of trash and decay. Tufts of dog hair float by on the little walking paths and cling to our shoes as if looking for a way of escape.

Cleaning House
Our first trip was made in the evening, our second in the daylight. It’s amazing how light can reveal what the darkness hides. We learned that she got angry one day and threw away all the trashcans in the house. People were there all day long on that cold winter day. The neighbors were stunned. An informal neighborhood meeting was called. Janis was not invited. We quickly surmised that in this neighborhood people don’t come to help. It’s easier for them to huddle in their garages and talk up a story. Outlandish and preposterous would be the idea of helping a neighbor, and one would nearly be ostracized for suggesting such a thing. They watch us from the windows of their homes as condemnation and disgust flow from their chimneys of judgement.

Family Life
Mrs. Greer is in a nursing home, becoming weaker each day with Alzheimers disease. She calls me Angie, and I don’t correct her. I only know her as the roommate of a friend I visit weekly in that hospital. I bring Mrs. Greer chocolate kisses and talk to her about the news. I touch her tiny hand and smile. I see fear in her eyes, but lately she sleeps a lot. Lately she doesn’t eat. She may not make it to the end of the year. Janis weeps over her mother’s situation. I took her to see Mrs. Greer last week and the entire floor was alive from the cleaning personnel to the nurse’s station, shocked that Mrs. Greer had a visitor. Everyone came around to see. No one knew it was her own daughter.

Janis’ husband left when the two boys were young. He doesn’t visit them. They, too, are immobilized in this prison. We gave her food, prayed with her and invited she and her two sons to church. One attends, the older one, angry and confused, refuses. The boys cannot drive because there’s no money for car insurance, and they don’t work. The older one has a small income from his work on the computer. He stays in his room most of the day. The younger, more attentive to his mother, is eager to earn a living outside the home; eager to change. A friend of mine paves the way for teaching, mentoring and employment.

Blame-Shifting
Janis blames everyone for her situation, from the doctor to the plumber to the neighbor next door. And anyone who has gotten into a situation like that would blame others. Like alcohol to a drunkard, it is the steady consummation of denial which soothes the wretched reality of dysfunction. The home starkly reveals her story and voices of anger and misery cry through heaps of trash. Apathy and hopelessness is the reply. Tears stream down her face. She is ashamed. I kneel before her and pray.

Expectation
It’s a really tough place. I have seen worse, but in the expected places: the poor and homeless areas of town or the slums of Mexico. Not in a place like this, though. Not on Scotch Road. And I am humbly reminded that none of us are too far from these places. With our hells and our heavens merely separated by a thread we walk the fine line of paralyzing dysfunction every day, every moment, and with every choice we make. Our only hope is intentional and deliberate obedience and intimacy with Christ. What we witness in Janis’ home is the outcome of slow decrepitation. We only see the results. The process of declination must be a living hell.

We will visit often; there is much work to do. But we have hope in Christ that He will bring joy to these sullen hearts and, like a fresh wind, breathe new life into this home.

A movement is beginning to occur in our hearts and theirs. May we serve Him with irresistible anticipation for the extraordinary.  May the neighbors take note.

Oh Lord, make us all sensitive to the hells of others. The trials and tribulations which affect the kingdom can wreak havoc on our souls.  May we not turn a blind eye to those in need, to those living in constant shame. Fill us with courage and strength, patience and expectation.  Give us words to share and ideas to embrace as we, in turn, embrace those who so desperately need a touch of your mercy and loving-kindness.  Make us willing vessels.  Humble us to serve your kingdom.


Who Cares?!

Sometimes I think I’m not supposed to hurt, that things aren’t supposed to trouble me, so I often don’t allow people to see the hurts I endure.  A misunderstanding, an unkind word, a hateful deed:  We simply hide them in our sock drawer and move along.  Who would care anyway?  What would it matter?  There are bigger crimes, bigger hurts, louder tears.  But every time I open the sock drawer, there they are.  I slam it shut and scream in my mind, “Who would care?!”  And I answer my question with cynicism, “Who? Like, a human?”

A friend said to me today, “It’s okay, I’m not afraid of tears. You can talk.”  Ah! He may not be afraid of tears, but God knows I am.  I struggle to regain composure and try to speak without squeaking … or sobbing.  I ask if we can talk later and hang up the phone.  Buried consequences rise in my throat like a tidal wave and my body trembles under the weight of grief, sorrow, misunderstanding and shame.

We were not meant for sin or grief; we were not meant to hurt.  Hurt comes from sin, and sin is something far more spiritually connected than we could ever imagine, connected through insidious forces we can neither see nor touch, let alone understand.  And when it makes its way into the human soul it can hardly be rectified without a bigger and more authoritative Spiritual Power.

My eyes fall on Mark 1:23-28.  Jesus had just healed the demon-possessed man.  In those days, demon possession was a very widespread thing and had many Jewish legends and folklore attached to it.  One noted historian, Harnack said, “The whole earth was a living hell.” We really don’t see that kind of widespread demon possession today, and that’s not the focus of my note; however, what I came to realize about the demon-possessed man is that he knew he was possessed.  Jesus could not cure him unless he admitted his trouble.  I think that’s why the story is in the Bible.  We must assume the reality of our disease before we can ask for a cure.

I open my sock drawer once again, and there are the hurts buried among the mis-matched.  I place them on the dresser and slowly expose them to Jesus.  Through tears and sobs, I admit the pain, the sin, the grief and the sorrow.  Slowly they fade and I am renewed and strengthened by His power.  And I realize that it isn’t the responsibility of any one person to meet us in these places.  When we assume that man should do what only God can do then we put man before God and we will always be disappointed.

“Who would care?”  I answer my question now with assurance.  My eyes fill with tears, but these are tears of joy which come from a new sense of maturity and hope. Jesus cares, and Jesus stands ready to cure the heart that admits the disease.

Lord, thank you for allowing me to give you these things which hurt so deeply.  I share them with you because you understand with great depth and clarity and you offer comfort with abundant mercy and loving-kindness.  My hope is in you and my heart is strengthened by your love. My cup is full to overflowing with this joy. Jesus, take me and use me as your light to shine your glory. I love you, Lord.

Abide With Me (MP Jones)